Today was my birthday which meant I could do whatever I wanted to do to celebrate being alive, and believe you me, I’m enjoying this whole life thing. I slept in, talked to my sister on the phone forever, and then hopped on the bike and headed out for a massage. Afterward, because it was my birthday, I left my bike on the rack and walked the several blocks to Wendy’s for a spicy chicken sandwich, add cheese, fries, and a drink. She asked me what kind of drink I wanted. I foolishly said I wanted a Diet Coke, but what I didn’t know was that I’d be filling my cup from the crazy new zillion flavor Coke machine newly-installed in the lobby. The sign outside urged me to use my creativity, and as I mixed up a Diet Coke Lime with a touch of raspberry lemonade, I thought about how we no longer seem to encourage creativity in our children, teaching to tests rather than teaching critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. All our creativity is good for is combining flavors of corn syrup. Bummer. But hey, it was my birthday, so I threw out my terrible-tasting soda and got back on the bike, a quick pit stop at home, and then to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum at the saddest place on earth, the empty “mall” called the Riverwalk. Yes, the “museum” is at the end of the food court. Anyway, I think the place was leaving out a lot of details about a little something in its history of sugar (rhymes with “mavery”). I did my rounds and took myself back out and on the bike to Mid-City for ice cream with R., back to the Quarter for dinner with S., and then to the bar to meet up with all kinds of friends and former students. It was a most perfect day full of all things that made my past year so lovely: family, friends old and new, bikes, fast food, massagery, heat, fine dining, dessert, and a world that gives me so much to think about, even when it’s just the drink machine. By the way, apparently you can thank the technology of dialysis for Coke Freestyle–God Bless America. Here’s to another year of awesome.